I have a bunch of vectors and matrices that are written using \mathbf, eg $\mathbf{w}$ and $\mathbf{W}$. What are standard ways of writing these in hand-writing?

I know this is not exactly a maths question, but I'm not sure where else to ask it really?

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    $\begingroup$ My advice would be, unless you're an accomplished calligrapher or want to switch between pens or pencils a lot, avoid even trying to simulate bf. You can write perfectly acceptable mathematics with the one font your handwriting provides. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2012 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ Traditionally, vectors are just indicated using the little arrow on top. It's quite difficult to accurately convey bold font using handwriting. $\endgroup$
    – EuYu
    Nov 13, 2012 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say the best way not to mess up is to use different sets of letters for vectors, points and reals. I don't know about international conventions, but in France, when vectors are taught, a rightarrow is written on top of the letter. For matrices, capital letters are used. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2012 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Rick, using different pens/pencils is an interesting idea that hadn't occurred to me. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2012 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Looks like there is tex.stackexchange.com now. Should this be moved to there? $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2017 at 11:42

2 Answers 2


Since it is hopeless to write bold-face characters by hand, people introduced symbols like $$ \vec{w}, \quad \underline{w}, $$ for vectors. Matrices are usually written in roman characters, but with upper case: $A$, $B$, $W$, etc.

Mathematicians do not like strange symbols for vectors, and they tend to write simply $v$, $w$ as if they were writing scalar quantities. The context makes the difference. Physicists and engineers prefer arrows, as far as I know.


Why not use a tilde & a harpoon over the letter to distinguish between a matrix & a vector respectively? In control systems, capital letters are used to denote the Laplace Transform of a time-domain variable & since multivariable systems are not uncommon this could distinguish that.

  • $\begingroup$ I see that a tilde under an upper-case Roman letter is also used for matrices; with a straight line or underscore under a lower case Roman letter for a vector. I can't figure out how to produce these symbols in MathJax. $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2015 at 21:00

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